I am a 30 year old from England and have been playing poker for about a year. During this time, I have been keen to read up a lot as well as get as much exposure to ring and tournament games as I can (without getting into games that are out of my depth if I can help it!)
Why should you read this article?
If you are a pro:
Take a few seconds to reminisce back to your respective rookie days and see if my naïve views ring any bells amongst you – feel free to throw as many pointers my way as you like. And stay away from my games! (Why are all-comers so determined to mix it with the best on some sort of ego trip? The same reason that makes someone pick on the biggest guy he can find? Both strategies are crazy if you ask me, but I suppose that at least it’s a story to tell in the bar later…)
If you are a solid player:
You need to read this because I’m the sort of player that you should be able to walk all over and beat up a large percentage of the time! You have the experience under your belt and you should be salivating about having me at your table paying you off. But is there anything in this article that may make you think again? Hopefully, enough for you to look for other pigeons to pick on, so I feel that the waiting list is no longer following me around the card-room! And now that I’ve shared my thoughts with you, stay away from my game also!
Do others feel the same as me or not? I hope this following article incites others to write their thoughts down in future articles. Do the poker theorists make assumptions that just don’t hold up in crazy games? It’s all right understanding position and what an early position raise implies, but has everyone else at the $3-6 game read the books as well? If others don’t understand what they are doing themselves, how are you supposed to put them on a hand based on a play that appears sophisticated but was based on a random raise generated from boredom, blissfully aware of the play that they are implying? I guess the answer is to follow the advice of Sklansky and stick to the boring-but-effective style of tight and (moderately) aggressive play to take down the money on a consistent basis. (A second to pay respect to this author, who has undoubtedly taken my thought processes up a couple of levels single-handedly. I quite often answer his questions correctly, but often for the wrong reasons! David, you can stay away from my games too!)
So, on to the article. I am short on experience, but have not too much trouble doing the maths to work out implied pot odds, conditional probability or even Bayes Theorem. Obviously, I’m not at the speed of a Chris Ferguson or a Phil Hellmuth, but I’m accurate enough to not be completely wrong very often. Further, I usually score 15-18 out of 20 on the quizzes on poker Web sites, so I must have something right. Assuming then that I have the artillery to hold my own in a low stakes (say $6-12) game, my biggest dilemma is how best to present myself to the table?
Let me start by offering my preferred method, cards willing. Sit in just behind the button and post – that post could be the best $6 you spend all night! I will now use an extreme example to illustrate:
You check after posting and get a free ป๊อกเด้ง ไฮโล play with 7-2 offsuit. The flop comes 7-7-2!! The two tasks you now have are to keep a straight face and take down the pot. Some articles would suggest giving a free card (or at least not raising) to allow others to catch up, others advise to bet it out and make sure of winning. The former has problems if people catch up too much; the latter will often reduce your potential win size by having no company past the turn card. I guess only experience allows you to work out which play, though my thoughts favour the second method, as flopping a full house and coming second via free cards has to be a calamity that will haunt you for a long time.
Let’s suppose pocket Aces and a flush draw keep you company. Well that AA is really going to regret not raising pre-flop, but lots of players don’t at low stakes, they don’t want to give their hand away. The board fills up 7-7-2-9-K and the draw catches his nut flush on the river. He’s going to wish he had missed the flush too! Anyway, imagine the scene as you roll over 7-2 and pick up a monster pot, much to the chagrin of the loose cannon who got married to his pocket rockets and the flush who had finally caught a hand after a long dry spell. If some of you scoff at how unlikely my story might be, ask yourself if you have been playing high stakes too long and have forgotten what a game of $6-12 can be like during the graveyard shift?
No matter, my point is that after the dust has settled, people will have eyes popping out of their heads at the rags you had the cheek to play, having long since forgotten that you posted and had a free play, caught the flop and then played properly.
Knowing glances will be exchanged and several opponents will be dying to isolate you heads up thereafter. Even better (as once happened to me) to pick up middle pair next hand and an inside straight draw that you catch on the river! Remember that because you posted behind the button, you probably now have good enough position to make this play if other conditions are right. Now take Mr Sklansky’s advice and sit back and harvest. There is no need to get cute by bluffing as you are going to get callers for quite some time. Just play premium hands against people that have now lowered their own standards in calling you. After informing the guy with AA that he can’t expect to win with trash starting hands like that, you can expect him and Mr. Nut Flush to be on full tilt plenty long enough to show a profit at their expense.
Back to reality, what happens if AA raises and A9s makes it three bets? Obviously you give up your hand pre-flop and you miss the chance to make a spectacular entrance long before the betting ends up capped! Should you go out of your way to give the appearance that you are a seasoned player? (by shuffling chips, name dropping, commenting on play etc. and above all by playing a tight – but not too tight – game!). You are hoping that your subsequent plays receive the respect that would normally only be afforded to a better player, but it is likely only a matter of time before inexperience blows your cover after a few sucker calls.
Or should you go out of your way to sit down in your finest tourist clothes and ask the dealer the rules repeatedly whilst throwing in a couple of loose calls early on with the intention of re-couping them with interest later when your play miraculously improves over a very short space of time? Or is this too cute for a rookie that may well find himself out of his depth anyway without resorting to circus antics on the side? An English accent certainly helps make this play, as I think some Americans haven’t worked out yet that poker has arrived in the U.K. as well!
Well, I have written quite enough, perhaps another rookie can continue the article for me, or perhaps a pro can put me straight on the best strategy. But either way, think twice before grumbling about having to post to gain a hand: It may prove far more profitable than waiting for the blinds to come around! I am sure that the statisticians can disprove my article and claim that it is money wasted over the year, but I say that it’s a very small price to pay (when poker is not your living) for the occasional opportunity to send an opponent over the edge!